Posted by R. Berg on February 06, 2002
In Reply to: Hens, Roosters and Foxes posted by Word Camel on February 06, 2002
: Recently, I used the expression, "He as happy as a rooster in the hen house." when talking to a German friend. She said she didn't quite understand what I meant.
: After an awkward conversation of just why a rooster might be happy to be in the hen house, (she didn't know much about chickens - except that she thinks I'm wicked for eating them), I learned but that the same expression in German except that it's a fox, not a rooster, and the connotation is somewhat more sinister.
: Anyway, I'm curious about a few things: Does the fox version of the phrase exist in English or does the fox factor point to subtle differences in national character? Is the rooster version more British(because I almost certainly picked it up there? Are there other phrases like this that change like this across cultures?
: Just wondering,
If those two sayings point to a more general difference between characters or cultures, it could be any of several sorts. English speakers overemphasize sex, or German speakers underemphasize it; or English speakers underemphasize hunger, or German speakers overemphasize it; and there are other possibilities. I don't have the answer, just some observations.
The saying that goes approximately "Don't set the fox to guard the chickens" shows that English speakers, like German speakers, have the fact of predation as part of their mental baggage.
The link below [Dead link - removed] goes to a page of German proverbs. Seems to me a rather high proportion of them concern eating.